Articles Index/Whelping
Posted 12/18/97



Dystocia--difficult birth--sometimes happens. Having a veterinarian on call is the best tension-reliever as whelping approaches, and a prenatal examination should be performed to reveal any anatomical factors, such as obstruction of the birth canal, that might interfere with normal birth. But when the day, or more likely the night, arrives and actual labor begins, it helps to be alert to some of the signs of developing dystocia. You have 57 to 71 days to prepare yourself--that's the usual length of time between mating and birth in dogs.

Canine labor is a two-stage event, the first lasting six to twelve hours and characterized by a drop in body temperature and uterine contractions that won't be visible to the bystander, although the bitch's restlessness and panting will. Stage two, when the fetuses begin to move through the birth canal, is obvious by the straining and involuntary contraction of abdominal muscles. This is when awareness on the part of the owner is essential. If four hours pass without the appearance of a puppy, or if more than two hours elapse between puppies, trouble may be brewing. When a bitch in stage two constantly strains without producing a pup, she needs medical attention after no more than one hour. If the birth canal proves to be normal but contractions have ceased (uterine inertia), the veterinarian may administer intravenous calcium and oxytocin, a hormone that stimulates uterine contraction. It should be noted, however, that calcium has the potential to disturb the normal rhythm of the heart and therefore must be used by a professional and where the animal can be closely supervised. If the patient does not respond to this therapy, it may be necessary to resort to caesarean section. Apparently, the size of the fetus, size in relation to the mother, is a factor; especially if it's a one-puppy litter. Such litters often result in an oversized fetus. Often a single fetus cannot produce enough hormonal stimulation for a normal birthing process

Adapted from December 1987 Cornell University Newsletter
ANTIC, Winter 1988

Back to Articles Index
Back to Home Page